Novels, 1993-1995: Operation Shylock / Sabbath's Theater

Overview

The Library of America's definitive edition of Philip Roth's collected works continues with two novels that heralded the beginning of a more than decade-long creative explosion-one remarkable in an older writer and hailed by critics as unparalleled in American literary history. In the diabolically imaginative Operation Shylock (1993), a character named Philip Roth encounters a look-alike who claims Roth's identity and who tours Israel promoting a bizarre reverse exodus of the Jews-proselytizing the "real" Roth is...

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Overview

The Library of America's definitive edition of Philip Roth's collected works continues with two novels that heralded the beginning of a more than decade-long creative explosion-one remarkable in an older writer and hailed by critics as unparalleled in American literary history. In the diabolically imaginative Operation Shylock (1993), a character named Philip Roth encounters a look-alike who claims Roth's identity and who tours Israel promoting a bizarre reverse exodus of the Jews-proselytizing the "real" Roth is intent on stopping, even if it means impersonating his impersonator.
"This splendidly wicked book" is how the critic Frank Kermode described Sabbath's Theater (1995), a comic masterpiece of epic proportions whose gargantuan hero, Mickey Sabbath, grieving the loss of his unsurpassable mistress, embarks on a turbulent journey into his past besieged by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him most.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Roth has the distinction of being the only living writer included in the venerable Library of America series. This sixth installment of his collected works features two novels: 1993's Operation Shylock and 1995's Sabbath's Theater. Shylock is most unusual in that Roth uses himself as both the antagonist and the protagonist—a man impersonating Roth is touring Israel, and the real Roth goes after him. The comic Sabbath's Theater is more straightforward. This double edition is being released to coincide with the publication of his forthcoming novel, NEMESIS. Your hardcovers should be shot by now, so replace them with this single volume and save a couple of fazools.—Mike Rogers, "Classic Returns," BookSmack! 8/5/10
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598530780
  • Publisher: Library of America, The
  • Publication date: 9/2/2010
  • Series: Library of America Series
  • Pages: 832
  • Sales rank: 721,819
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 1.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Roth

Philip Roth, acclaimed author of Portnoy's Complaint, The Human Stain and many other works of fiction, is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts from the White House.

Biography

Philip Roth's long and celebrated career has been something of a thorn in the side of the writer. As it is for so many, fame has been the proverbial double-edged sword, bringing his trenchant tragic-comedies to a wide audience, but also making him a prisoner of expectations and perceptions. Still, since 1959, Roth has forged along, crafting gorgeous variations of the Great American Novel and producing, in addition, an autobiography (The Facts) and a non-fictional account of his father's death (Patrimony: A True Story).

Roth's novels have been oft characterized as "Jewish literature," a stifling distinction that irks Roth to no end. Having grown up in a Jewish household in a lower-middle-class sub-section of Newark, New Jersey, he is incessantly being asked where his seemingly autobiographical characters end and the author begins, another irritant for Roth. He approaches interviewers with an unsettling combination of stoicism, defensiveness, and black wit, qualities that are reflected in his work. For such a high-profile writer, Roth remains enigmatic, seeming to have laid his life out plainly in his writing, but refusing to specify who the real Philip Roth is.

Roth's debut Goodbye, Columbus instantly established him as a significant writer. This National Book Award winner was a curious compendium of a novella that explored class conflict and romantic relationships and five short stories. Here, fully formed in Roth's first outing, was his signature wit, his unflinching insightfulness, and his uncanny ability to satirize his character's situations while also presenting them with humanity. The only missing element of his early work was the outrageousness he would not begin to cultivate until his third full-length novel Portnoy's Complaint -- an unquestionably daring and funny post-sexual revolution comedy that tipped Roth over the line from critically acclaimed writer to literary celebrity.

Even as Roth's personal relationships and his relationship to writing were severely shaken following the success of Portnoy's Complaint, he continued publishing outrageous novels in the vein of his commercial breakthrough. There was Our Gang, a parodic attack on the Nixon administration, and The Breast, a truly bizarre take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, and My Life as a Man, the pivotal novel that introduced Roth's literary alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman.

Zuckerman would soon be the subject of his very own series, which followed the writer's journey from aspiring young artist with lofty goals to a bestselling author, constantly bombarded by idiotic questions, to a man whose most important relationships have all but crumbled in the wake of his success. The Zuckerman Trilogy (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Counterlife) directly paralls Roth's career and unfolds with aching poignancy and unforgiving humor.

Zuckerman would later reemerge in another trilogy, although this time he would largely be relegated to the role of narrator. Roth's American Trilogy (I Married a Communist, the PEN/Faulkner Award winning The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America), shifts the focus to key moments in the history of late-20th –century American history.

In Everyman (2006) , Roth reaches further back into history. Taking its name from a line of 15th-century English allegorical plays, Everyman is classic Roth -- funny, tragic, and above all else, human. It is also yet another in a seemingly unbreakable line of critical favorites, praised by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The Library Journal.

In 2007's highly anticipated Exit Ghost, Roth returned Nathan Zuckerman to his native Manhattan for one final adventure, thus bringing to a rueful, satisfying conclusion one of the most acclaimed literary series of our day. While this may (or may not) be Zuckerman's swan song, it seems unlikely that we have seen the last Philip Roth. Long may he roar.

Good To Know

Before publishing his first novel, Roth wrote an episode of the suspenseful TV classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

A film adaptation of American Pastoral is currently in the works. Australian director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence; Patriot Games) is on board to direct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Philip Milton Roth
    2. Hometown:
      Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 19, 1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

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